You're in Good Hands
A modest proposal to solve New Mexico's
Like most motorists on the bucolic roads of Southern New Mexico, I tend to kind of let my mind drift when I'm driving. I get some of my best thinking done behind the windshield, and really, those lines in the middle of the road are more like guidelines than boundaries. I like to remember the lyrics to arcane Waylon Jennings songs, or think about all the dogs I've owned. Sometimes, I engage in recreational mathematics, because numbers are fascinating to me. In fact, while stopped at an intersection recently, I counted three other cars waiting for the light to change. Using my sharply honed mathematical skills, I calculated that — statistically speaking — one of the four of us New Mexican drivers didn't have auto insurance. Judging a book by the cover, you might guess it was my oil-dripping, wheezy, turd-encrusted rattlebox, but you'd be wrong. So which one was it?
According to a recent Gallup Poll (they must pester those poor people up there in Gallup something fierce), 26% of New Mexico drivers don't have auto insurance. (Once again, thank God for Mississippi: 28% of them eschew coverage, putting them solidly in first place.) I have been hot-footing iron around on New Mexico roads for over three decades now, and I find this perpetual lack of insurance puzzling. Doesn't our state have a mandatory auto insurance law?
Why, of course we do! According to the state's MVD website, the state contracts with PASCO, Inc., to provide an online database that matches auto insurance information from New Mexico insurance companies with vehicles registered with the MVD. A subsidiary of PASCO called Validati checks vehicle registrations against insurance companies to verify coverage. In 2009, there were over 698,000 vehicles registered in New Mexico; even if a few more cars have arrived since then, that means there are at least 181,000 uninsured hoopties on the roads today. That's a lot of cars to avoid.
If there are this many uninsured drivers on our roads now, imagine how bad it must've been before Santa Fe contracted with PASCO to meet these new legislative requirements. In the year 2000 — a year before the law authorizing the online database was passed — the roads must have been positively infested with uninsured scofflaws, leaving a trail of carnage and non-accountability in their wake. Turns out, in the lawless days of 2000, a staggering 26.3% of New Mexico drivers were uninsured. That means that New Mexico has seen a spectacular decrease of three-tenths of one percent due to our new online database requirement. Makes you wonder how much we're paying PASCO, doesn't it?
Never one to sit around and squander a perfectly good legislative session on things that make sense, then-Governor Bill "Fun Boy" Richardson decided that giving driver's licenses to non-citizens would improve the state's uninsured motorist problem by forcing accountability on the licensees. In what can only be called a staggering testament to well-thought-out policy, the rate of uninsured motorists actually climbed more than 3% before Bill rode out of Santa Fe. As an unintended bonus, state tourism activity has seen a real boost from undocumented visitors coming to our state to obtain their very own, authentic US driver's licenses ever since! Mission accomplished.
So I'm still looking around the intersection: One of the three cars is a late-model sedan of expensive European extraction. The one behind me is a clapped-out old Buick with a rearview mirror held on by duct tape. And the one on the other side, with rubberized testicles hanging proudly under the rear bumper, is a jacked-up pickup riding on tires larger than the rings of Saturn. Who among the four of us is uninsured, statistically speaking?
We may never know, and that's a problem. If law enforcement can't handle it, and superfluous legislation bringing seemingly foolproof (and probably expensive) technology to the challenge can't force compliance, what's left?
Well, Lightcap has a three-point plan to solve the problem of uninsured motorists. First, stop issuing driver's license to non-citizens (duh). Second, the car is towed and impounded on first offense until proof of insurance is provided, with a fine far greater than the cost of insurance being exacted (i.e. $2,000). And third, after being found insurance-less the second time, the car's license plate is replaced with a safety-orange version that says, "CAUTION — SEX OFFENDER." This probably won't fly with the ACLU, but how important would it suddenly become to make sure you have your current insurance card in the glove box?
By instituting the Lightcap plan, New Mexico could save all the money it's forking over to PASCO, which doesn't seem to have much of an impact on the problem. Non-citizens would have to go to Washington State, the only other state in the union giving driver's licenses to non-citizens, to get their bogus documents. And when our rate of uninsured drops by double-digits, we could laugh even more loudly at Mississippi and poke them with sticks until they cry "uncle."
Henry Lightcap is gunning for that GEICO gecko on the streets of Las Cruces.